A Davidsonville man has pleaded guilty to wire fraud arising from a scheme that defrauded lenders and a title insurance company, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore announced Thursday. The government said the loss was between $2.5 million and $7 million.

Stephen J. Troese Sr., 72, practiced as a title attorney and controlled several title companies that operated in the Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington areas, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore, which announced the plea deal.

Due to employee errors and embezzlements, escrow accounts controlled by Troese were short $2 million by 2005, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. As the economy slowed, business fell off, worsening the shortfalls in the accounts.

According to the government, Troese refinanced his home twice, but instead of paying off his mortgages he used the loan money to cover the escrow account shortfalls.

The government also said Troese was part of a scheme in which money from new settlements was used to cover outstanding mortgage payoff amounts. In time there were too few settlements to cover the shortages, forcing the title insurer to make the payments, the government said.

Federal prosecutors estimated that business losses attributable to Troese as a result of the scheme ranged from $2.5 million to $7 million, and said that an exact amount would be determined at Troese's sentencing, which is scheduled for Feb. 7.

Troese faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/gussent

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